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African animators get their big break with Walt Disney collaboration

15 December 2015 - 12:48 By TMG Digital

The break for continental animators comes as a result of a collaboration between Triggerfish Animation Studios in South Africa‚ which has established a story lab that receives support from the Department of Trade and Industry and The Walt Disney Company. Eight stories from Africa - ranging from Zambian girls who become superhero-super-spies to a 12-year-old Kenyan girl who defies tradition by racing camels‚ and a young South African scientist who accidentally turns her annoying little sister into a new source of electricity - are about to be turned into animation films and TV series.The break for continental animators comes as a result of a collaboration between Triggerfish Animation Studios in South Africa‚ which has established a story lab that receives support from the Department of Trade and Industry and The Walt Disney Company.The company has selected four features and four TV series for development from the inaugural Triggerfish Story Lab.“These are characters we fell in love with‚” Anthony Silverston‚ head of development at Triggerfish‚ said in a statement. “We’re excited by the range of stories‚ that explore everything from contemporary urban to Afro-futuristic worlds. We’re looking forward to bringing something fresh to the screen.”The selected storytellers will start the new year with a two-week trip to Disney’s headquarters in Burbank‚ California‚ where they will receive mentoring from key studio and television executives.The feature films selected into the Story Lab are:- The Camel Racer (Wanuri Kahiu and Nnedi Okorafor – Kenya/Nigeria) - Dropped (Ian Tucker - SA) - Lights (Kay Carmichael – SA) - The Wild Waste (Naseem Hoosen - SA) The TV series selected into the Story Lab are: - Bru and Boegie (Mike Scott – SA) - KC’s Super 4 (Malenga Mulendema - Zambia) - Ninja Princess (Marc Dey and Kelly Dillon - SA) - Wormholes (Lucy Heavens - SA)The selected storytellers include Nnedi Okorafor‚ a Nigerian-American World Fantasy Award winning novelist; multi-award-winning Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu; South African YouTube phenomenon Mike Scott‚ whose music videos for Goldfish have over 12 million views; and Lucy Heavens‚ one of the writers on the breakout South African animation hit Supa Strikas‚ which is broadcast in 120 countries around the world.The Story Lab received 1‚378 entries from 30 countries across Africa. 23 features and 14 TV series were shortlisted and developed over a two-week intensive workshop in Cape Town in November 2015 with Orion Ross‚ Vice President of Content – Animation‚ Digital and Acquisitions Disney Channels EMEA‚ and leading Hollywood script consultant Pilar Alessandra‚ author of The Coffee Break Screenwriter.“It was impressive to see how much all the projects had improved after the workshop‚” says Orion. “Clearly the Story Lab was doing something right‚ and it must have been incredibly difficult to pick just a few projects to move forward.”The shortlist was then evaluated by an expert panel that included Peter Lord‚ the British director of international blockbusters like Chicken Run and The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists; Hollywood writers Kiel Murray (Cars) and Jonathan Roberts (The Lion King); and a panel of development executives from both the London and Los Angeles offices of The Walt Disney Company‚ as well as South African comedian David Kau‚ screenwriter Paul Ian Johnson‚ and Triggerfish’s development team of Anthony Silverston‚ Wayne Thornley and RaffaellaDelle Donne.“I loved the opportunity to review this material‚” says Gary French‚ Senior Vice-president/Co-head‚ Production: ABC Studios. “There’s a lot of great talent here.”Triggerfish had planned to select three projects for film and TV respectively‚ but increased this to four for each due to the quality of the projects.“Story Lab exceeded our expectations at every turn‚ from the number of entries to the quality of the projects to the way they improved dramatically during the two-week intensive with Pilar and Orion‚” says Triggerfish CEO Stuart Forrest. “Narrowing it down to eight projects was difficult enough; narrowing it down to six would have been almost impossible.”Triggerfish will be investing up to R44 million (about $2.8m) over the next three years in The Story Lab.The development process can take a number of years. For each phase of development‚ Triggerfish will provide financial support‚ workspace‚ and expert guidance by internal and international consultants and mentors‚ as well as a route to market through top-tier relationships with leading Hollywood agency WilliamMorris Endeavor.Animation has proven to be a successful medium for South African films to travel internationally‚ with Triggerfish’s films Adventures in Zambezia (2012)‚ starring Jeremy Suarez‚ Abigail Breslin and Samuel L. Jackson‚ and Khumba Khumba (2013)‚ starring Jake T. Austin‚ AnnaSophia Robb and Liam Neeson‚ being distributed in over 150 countries and dubbed into over 27 languages.Established in 1996‚ Triggerfish Animation Studios is a Cape Town-based film and entertainment company.Triggerfish recently collaborated with Magic Light Pictures to animate Stick Man‚ the BBC One Christmas Day special based on the much-loved children’s picture book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. And they are currently collaborating with Magic Light Pictures in Berlin on the production of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes Christmas special...

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